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Cambodia’s growing art scene

Mark Tilly / Khmer Times Share:
The revival of Cambodia’s traditional arts has been a success story. KT/Chor Sokunthea

The Cambodian Living Arts (CLA) foundation released its annual report last week for 2015-16, highlighting gains in artist to artist collaboration as well as partnerships with organisations creating “concrete results” in developing Cambodia’s art education and development.

CLA executive director Phloeun Prim noted in the report’s introduction their culture curriculum they plan to implement in public schools across the country was progressing steadily.

“To me this could be the most significant legacy we leave in Cambodia,” he said.

“We can have a lasting national impact with future generations experiencing arts as a fundamental part of everyday life.”

The curriculum, developed in partnership with the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports and Unesco, aims to better integrate culture and arts education into Cambodia’s education system with plans to launch a pilot programme this year.

The report also notes Cambodia’s growing artistic global presence.

In January 2016, Cambodia hosted the third conference of the Asia-Pacific Network for Cultural Education and Research (ANCER), which brought more than 100 arts managers, researchers and policymakers from 20 countries to Phnom Penh.

“This was such an energetic and exciting three days and set the tone for the rest of 2016,” Director of Program and Operations Frances Rudgard said.

“It’s energizing and inspiring to be connecting with our neighbours.”

Yu Chuchun from Taiwan’s Department of Cultural Exchange, said the conference set the benchmark for a collaborative conference on the arts.

“I wanted to meet more young people working in the cultural sector in the region, have a conversation,” she said.

In New York, CLA presented “The Role of Arts in Rebuilding Post-Conflict Nations” in September, while in Australia in June, they joined the International Society for Performing Arts Congress in Sydney.

A statement from last year’s Living Arts in Post-Conflict Context Forum congratulated Cambodia’s efforts to resurrect the arts after the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime.

“The example of Cambodia, where the revival of the arts and culture has played an essential role in the country’s rebirth after the devastation of the genocide, holds important lessons for our world,” the statement said.

“Arts and culture have a humanising capacity and a unique ability to promote tolerance, diversity and social cohesion.”

CLA was founded in 1998 by Khmer Rouge survivor and musician Arn Chord-Pond, to preserve traditional Cambodian art that was at risk of disappearing.

It now offers scholarships, training and employment for new talent, which has begun to feed back into the vibrancy and viability of the arts in Cambodia.

This has ranged from CLA commissioning a new composition of music, voice movement and visuals, Bangsokol, which will premiere in Sydney in October, to Pheun Sreypov, who is now running a successful Smot business in Phnom Penh.

She now provides chanting ceremonies and has become the first local donor to the scholarship programme.

“I see that it motivates the next generation of arts students to be proud of their talent,” she said.

“And those students will keep transferring knowledge of arts to following generations.”

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